Notebook: Michigan excluded from preseason honors, coaches discuss lowering rims

By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 25, 2012

ROSEMONT, Ill. — After placing seven teams in the NCAA Tournament last season, preseason honors would be hard to come by at the Big Ten Media Day on Thursday.

So it came as little surprise when the Michigan women’s basketball team was given little recognition. Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said she didn’t pay any attention to it, though.

“For myself, I don’t think I can worry about (preseason polls),” Barnes Arico said. “I think all we’re concerned about is Michigan’s women’s basketball, which is getting better each and every day. We have a great players in our league and it’s just getting better and better.”

Penn State was projected to win the conference by both the media and coaches after finishing first in the Big Ten last season with a 13-3 record.

The Nittany Lions also boast one of two of the coaches’ preseason player of the year picks in senior guard Alex Bentley — who aims for her third straight All-Big Ten honor this year.

Nebraska junior forward Jordan Hooper, Ohio State senior guard Tayler Hill — the other preseason player of the year selection — and Penn State junior guard Maggie Lucas were all members of the All-Big Ten team last year also.
The Wolverines finished 8-8 in conference play last year,and hope to improve upon that mark.

Barnes Arico, the program’s first-year coach, will have time to adjust before it matters, though, as Michigan takes on preseason favorites Nebraska, Penn State and Ohio State in three of its last four regular season games.

MIXED REACTIONS: Three days after Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma spoke about his idea to lower rims in college basketball seven inches, Big Ten coaches and players provided their reaction to the hot topic.

Auriemma, who supports lowering the rim to 9-foot-5, cited the difference between the height of the net in men’s and women’s volleyball as a reasoning behind the idea to draw more fans to games.

“You have to look at changing things if you feel like they’re not working,” said Northwestern coach Joe McKeown. “I’d like to see us use a big ball again and I think we miss a lot of lay-ups. I don’t know about lowering the rims, but I do think we shouldn’t be intimidated by change, either.”

Michigan State junior guard Klarissa Bell, who had yet to hear about the idea, was indifferent toward the topic but was concerned about the logistics of it all.

“I think that it would be interesting because a lot more girls could actually dunk,” Bell said. “I couldn’t imagine having to change my shot seven inches lower and making a lay-up — I think my ball might go over the backboard.”
Barnes Arico was not supportive of the idea, describing it as another distraction she would rather ignore.

“I don’t know how I feel about it,” Barnes Arico said. “I would probably say I don’t really have a strong feeling about it. Right now I’m worried about my team and coaching my team.”

Auriemma also spoke about maintaining an annual location for regional sites in the NCAA Tournament and moving the final two games to a Friday-Sunday format, rather than a Tuesday-Sunday format.

Ohio State coach Jim Foster noted that he hasn’t spent much time thinking about the subject, though, he did echo the sentiments of Barnes Arico about the Huskies’ man at the helm.

“Geno has a got a team that allows him to have escapist moments,” Foster said. “The rest of us are spending a lot of time trying to get our team better.”

INJURIES: Barnes Arico enters the season with three of her players recovering from ACL injuries, but she isn’t alone amongst coaches who are also working to overcome injuries.

Nebraska, picked second in the preseason poll, will have to overcome a variety of injuries early in the season to fulfill those projections.

Perhaps the team that will suffer the most is rival Michigan State, who coach Suzy Merchant expects won’t be at full-strength until mid-December. Merchant listed freshman guard Brandi Agee as the most notable of her injuries, which will make the Spartans overcome a lack of depth as well.

“It’s really about getting the entire team back to healthy and ready to go for Big Tens,” Merchant said. “We fully anticipate that happening.”